The SA Rugby magazine team identifies what they would love to see come out of round 15 of Vodacom Super Rugby.
Craig Lewis (senior writer) hopes we can forget about officiating.
It’s not often we go through a weekend of Super Rugby without various complaints around officiating. Round 14 was no different, with plenty of debate raging whether the Crusaders should have been denied a potential match-winning try against the Stormers due to a controversial forward pass.
Then All Blacks coach Steve Hansen weighed in to suggest that there had been noticeable refereeing inconsistencies in matches involving South African sides during this season. It all just takes away from what should be an on-field focus in a World Cup year.
This weekend, I’d love to see the officials up their game and ensure that there are no grey areas when it comes to their decision-making. In turn, we could finally see just the on-field action deservedly occupying the headline inches.
Jon Cardinelli (chief writer) wants to see the South African teams finishing their attacking chances.
The South African teams combined for three tries in the four games against the Crusaders over the past four weeks. The Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls have been particularly poor on attack this season.
In a tight race for playoff places, try-scoring bonus points could prove decisive. Which of the local teams is going to fire in this respect?
I don’t care if a try is scored via a well executed maul from five metres out, or after a superb counterattack from deep within the team’s own half. I’d just like to see the local sides showing some composure on attack and translating those promising surges into points.
Mariette Adams (staff writer) wants Bulls flyhalf Manie Libbok to make the most of his starting berth.
A rather untimely injury to Handré Pollard during a training session has seen Manie Libbok promoted to the Vodacom Bulls’ starting lineup for their match against the Brumbies. Libbok has been the back-up No 10 for a while now, but he is yet to settle down and make a telling contribution.
The 21-year-old’s talent is unquestionable. He starred for SA Schools in 2015 and for the Junior Springboks in 2016 and 2017. That said, he has been in the Bulls’ senior set-up for three years now, and his performances in that time has been more erratic than composed.
With Pollard out of the picture for the remainder of the Bulls’ tour of Australasia, Libbok has been presented with a chance to start a few games at Super Rugby level. He has to start delivering on his promise, and now is as great a time as ever.
In the upcoming game against the Brumbies, he will be up against the experienced Christian Leali’ifano. A solid all-round performance in Canberra will boost his confidence in the lead-up to challenging matches against the Blues and Highlanders in New Zealand.
Dylan Jack (junior writer) hopes to see a titanic tussle in Durban.
The only South African derby of the weekend sees the Lions travel to Kings Park to take on the Sharks in what is expected to be a massive clash with regard to the outcome of the domestic conference.
As if to emphasise how tight the conference is, the Lions, who have been criticised this season for a number of poor performances measured against their own high standards, currently lead the Sharks by one point and are just two points off the conference-leading Bulls.
The Lions will be out to avenge their 42-5 humiliation earlier in the season when they were torn apart by a lightning-quick Sharks’ counter-attack.
However, there is so much more on the line for the players involved. This game will be particularly interesting to see which of the two wing pairs come out on top.
As has been pointed out in the week, depending on how Rassie Erasmus balances his final World Cup squad, there may only be five back-three places available. Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi and Damian Willemse are all in the running.
Dyantyi would have been jealous to see the quality of ball enjoyed by both Mapimpi and Nkosi in Johannesburg. Mapimpi, in particular, impressed after grabbing a brace of tries. The World Rugby Breakthrough Player of 2018 had a sluggish start to 2019, but looked much more like himself in last weekend’s victory over the Highlanders.
The Lions’ Cyle Brink and Sharks’ Jean-Luc du Preez, both back to full fitness after long-term injuries, will also do battle for the gainline in another eye-catching match-up between players who have been part of Erasmus’ set-up. Brink, who was part of the initial Test plans and trained with the Springboks before a knee-injury ruled him out for the rest of the year, will be eager to prove himself against Du Preez, who is arguably ahead of him in the pecking order, based on seniority alone.
With so much to gain and so much to lose, here’s hoping this game does not turn into the one-sided embarrassment that transpired at Ellis Park.
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